Motherhood Unfiltered: Ashley Freeborn, Teresa Freeborn, and Mercedes Laporte
If you’ve been in the #SmashTessFam for some time, you’ll know that we always keep it real.
We’ve never shied away from tough conversations, especially when it comes to being a woman today. When the topic of Mother’s Day came up here at S+T HQ, we knew right away that we wanted to bring the realities of motherhood front and center.
The fact is, we live in a world where it’s become too easy to put a filter over what isn’t picture perfect, or we simply choose not to share certain parts of our lives altogether. And while being a mom can sometimes feel glossy and glamourous, it’s most often not the case. Between those beautiful camera-ready moments exists a lot of hard work, frustrations and learnings.
Throughout April and leading up to Mother’s Day, this will be a platform for moms within our very own community to speak their truths and to remind us all that there’s no one way to be a mom.
To kick off our Motherhood Unfiltered series, we sat down with Smash + Tess’ own co-founders Ashley Freeborn, Teresa Freeborn, and Mercedes Laporte to discuss their own experiences with motherhood. Let’s dive in!
While you probably don’t need a formal introduction, tell us in your own words who you are.
AF: I’m Ash, the “Smash” of Smash + Tess! I’m the co-founder and CEO of the brand and I spend every day focusing on how we can amplify the Romper Revolution!
TF: I’m Teresa, or the “Tess” of Smash + Tess. I’ve recently become even more involved in the business of S+T—it became clear that I wasn’t quite ready for retirement! And how fun is it to work alongside my daughter? This Mama Tess is so very proud of my Smash.
ML: I’m Mercedes, aka Mer—I am a co-owner and style Director with Smash + Tess and I was born and raised in Vancouver, BC.
Let’s start on a high note. What have you felt has been the best part of motherhood for you thus far?
AF: The joy that my children bring me. Even when I’m having the hardest day, my babies bring a smile to my face. No one makes me belly laugh quite like my children!
TF: I still can’t believe I created these amazing humans! Realizing how inquisitive a child is and how insatiable their appetite for learning is. It’s truly marvelous. I revel in their learnings.
ML: The amount of love they bring! I love seeing my boys grow and seeing their personalities—and attitudes—develop. They certainly got it from their Mama…their attitude that is 😉
Something that comes up a lot when getting real with moms is the topic of shame. Do you ever feel shame when discussing your experiences being a mom?
AF: Balancing a very demanding career and motherhood is a challenge that I’ve never felt before. A lot of what I do is so that I can build a legacy for my children, but the key is balancing that with spending real, quality time with them. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I’m on my phone too much, or I’m traveling too much, or I’m worrying too much. When I start to feel or talk about my mom shame, I remember that I am modeling what it means to evolve, to feel complete passion for what I do every day. That is the gift I’m giving my children, and one day I hope they will have the courage and tenacity to chase their full potential in the way that I am every day.
TF: I’ve felt shame—both short-term and long-term. I felt it when I had to leave my babies with a sitter or nanny knowing they were ill and rushing off to the office because I was constantly trying to prove that my job wouldn’t suffer because I had mom responsibilities. I used to come up with creative excuses as to why I couldn’t work late, come in on the weekend, travel for business or go have a beer after work with my colleagues. It was career-limiting if your reasons for declining the invitation had to do with cooking dinner, homework or bath time with the kids. Work-family guilt was the worst!
ML: I guess in the beginning with my first-born I felt shame. I questioned everything! Luckily none of my friends at the time were having babies, so I didn't feel judged because they knew as much as I did. But I put so much pressure on myself.
Is there anything you wished that moms talked about more openly?
AF: I wish more moms were open about their goals and dreams. Not just as they relate to their children, but as they relate to their own lives. Having a world outside of your kids is totally okay and talking about it out loud doesn’t make you any less of a mama!
TF: How about how hard it is to keep all the balls in the air? How physically exhausted you always are, or how badly you feel about being impatient with your kids when they just want to have their share of mom?
ML: I think moms don't talk enough about how hard parenting really is. It’s hard to keep it all together. No mom is perfect, and we do the best we can with the time, resources, and skills we have. We really need to let go of societal and self-imposed expectations.
When you first became a mom, did anything stand out for you as being surprising or unexpected?
AF: I was a teacher for 10 years and I always thought I would be a strict parent. Turns out I’m a total softie. I offer my children structure and discipline, but my heart has softened in a way I never thought it would. Of course, I lose my patience like every other mom, but I find myself talking and explaining things to my kids in a way I never thought I would. I’m surprised by it and I’m proud of it.
TF: The realization you have created a legacy was big for me. You didn’t just have a baby. You had a little human that will be around for the next 60-70 years of your life, and that they would possibly have their own little humans who will play a big role in your life too. And that if you pay attention, you will have a discovery about them every day.
ML: What I didn't expect from motherhood would be how selfless you become. Your children really do come first, and you quickly forget about yourself. It’s so important to remember self-care and to refill your own cup because if you're not feeling good, your kids will feel it too.
What do you think is a common misconception about motherhood?
AF: That there is balance without sacrifice. There is always compromise and you will always feel out of balance. But it’s when we’re thrown off balance that all of the learning happens. So, I try to embrace it and calibrate as required. I try to listen to the moment, to my body, to my kids and make decisions that are necessary. But you are always making choices and sacrifices. The key is that your children know that they are so loved and so cared for. That’s always my goal.
TF: As mothers I think we all get caught in the trap of holding ourselves to unrealistic expectations. The biggest thing for me was that Motherhood was going to be totally fulfilling. Maybe it is if you devote 100% of your time and energy to family, while neglecting your own goals and needs. For your sanity and to truly have respect for your whole self – you’ve got to remember and honour your own goals, thoughts and emotions.
ML: The biggest misconception to me is that it’s easy! I stayed home with my kids for the first 4 years, and I was so lonely. There’s this false idea that stay-at-home moms have it easy with coffee and play dates, but the reality is that it can be a very lonely time. I found it hard to connect with other moms and I couldn't wait for my partner to come home from work each day.
If you could go back in time and tell yourself something before you had kids, what would it be?
AF: To SLEEP! I tell all expecting parents, please just stay horizontal. Have lazy mornings, take yourself to brunch, watch all of the shows, hang out with all of your friends. The moment you have kids, your priorities and world change.
TF: That having a child was going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever taken on in your life, but also the most rewarding. Particularly when the child is wholly dependent on mom – enjoy the chance to really get to know that baby. The newborn stage is over so quickly (although it doesn’t feel that way in the moment), but to watch your little one learn and grow year after year is so darn rewarding and heart-filling.
ML: Not to care what others think. This journey is your own—it will be unique!
What would you say is the best piece of advice you could offer to a new mom-to-be?
AF: To do it your way. There is not one right way. Find your happiness and be the kind of mom that feels authentic to you, because that authenticity and the joy that comes from that will be felt by your kids. Don’t load yourself with expectations, because it will all change the moment that sweet baby comes into your life. Give yourself the space to learn and grow as a Mom.
TF: Patience – be calm. Sometimes that baby is going to cry all night. Sometimes you will rock and pat that baby to sleep every night for 2 years! And then every now and then they’ll sleep right through the night. It’s all normal. If your baby or child cries out for a cuddle – day or night – rise to the occasion. They need it and so do you.
ML: Cherish every minute and let go of the expectations others may have of you. Your baby will grow so fast, so it’s important to take time to enjoy it—even when it’s tough.
Thanks for getting real about motherhood, Ash, Teresa, and Mercedes! Want to see more of this dynamic trio? Follow them on Instagram at @afreeborn, @teresafreeborn, and @mercedslaporte!